This course examines future climate change in the context of earth history, and then considers various strategies for what might be done to deal with it. We discuss measuring ancient temperature and carbon dioxide levels and investigate the basic physics and chemistry that control climate through the lens of climate variations in the geologic past. The likely impacts of continued greenhouse gas emissions are explored, emphasizing the scientific basis for climate change predictions. We explore impacts of climate change on human societies and on natural ecosystems. A major focus of the course addresses the question of how to mitigate climate change, including an examination of various options for advanced energy systems. Each student designs a low-carbon energy system for the US, considering the four basic energy sectors (transportation, industry, residential and commercial, and electricity). During the second half of the course, a large portion of class time focuses on the low-carbon energy system exercise.

Related Certificates and Degrees

This course may apply toward one of the following graduate certificates or degrees at Harvard Extension School:

Explore other degrees and certificates.

Meet The Faculty

Daniel P. Schrag

Daniel P. Schrag

Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Harvard University

Daniel P. Schrag is the Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology at Harvard University, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Schrag studies climate and climate change over the broadest range of Earth history. He is particularly interested in how information on climate change from the geologic past can lead to better understanding of anthropogenic climate change in the future. In addition to his work on geochemistry and climatology, Schrag studies energy technology and policy, including carbon capture and storage and low-carbon synthetic fuels.

Schrag previously served on President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Among various honors, he is the recipient of the James B. Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Thomas  Laakso

Thomas Laakso

Postdoctoral Fellow, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University

Laasko holds a PhD from Harvard University.

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